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Entries in Drag Queens (36)

Saturday
May032014

Hot Docs '14: In the Spotlight

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting from The Hot Docs Film Festival, the biggest documentary festival in North America currently underway in Toronto.]

 One of the tendencies that festival-goers develop over time is finding connecting threads between films that might otherwise be completely unrelated. This unconscious search for umbrella themes, even if unintended by festival programmers, intensifies when you sit down to write about the films. At first glance, there is little connecting three films about aging Belgian transsexuals, Argentinian civilians on camera, and Turkish-American political pundits. Beneath the surface, though, all deal in some way with a desire for self-expression in the spotlight.

Before the Last Curtain Falls follows a group of gay and transsexual performers who get together in the later years of their lives to put on an avant-garde show called Gardenia. When the film begins in the hauntingly beautiful city of Ghent in Belgium, where the performers hail from, the show has already become a massive international success and it is returning home for one final performance after more than 200 outings. Director Thomas Wallner combines interviews with the cast members with footage of the show to paint a portrait of each of them, drawing on their experiences of sexual identity struggle, social oppression and therapeutic theatre work.

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Tuesday
Apr222014

Tribeca: Holla for 'Mala Mala'

Our Tribeca Film Festival coverage continues with Glenn on Mala Mala

Christine Vachon is a national treasure. That is a fact. Without her then it’s highly questionable whether queer cinema would even exist in the somewhat minor capacity that it does. Seeing her name appear in the credits of Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini’s Mala Mala was a refreshing surprise because it’s rare to find documentaries with subject matter like this coming from such a major name, and yet also not at all surprising because the film has a beautiful polish to it that comes from having the resources that a name such as Vachon’s allows. It was also the film’s exceptional good fortune to get a connection to RuPaul’s Drag Race, too, giving the film a pop culture connection that can only help its important subject matter reach a wider audience.

Mala Mala is a documentary that looks at the trans and drag communities of Puerto Rico. Focusing on several key members of the island nation’s community, it proves to be a funny, sad, poignant, and ultimately refreshing experience. I certainly wasn’t aware of Puerto Rico’s sizable community and their struggles and for that the film provides a valuable service. Even better, however, was that the filmmakers didn’t shy away from their subjects’ bad sides with some working as sex workers and others having very strong, unflinching thoughts about what it means to be trans. As a film that chronicles the efforts to get government equality for transgender men and women it proves to be a rousing one, but it is these darker corners that give it the power necessary to possibly become something akin to Paris is Burning for a new generation.

That groundbreaking 1990 documentary by Jennie Livingston lingers over the proceedings of Mala Mala like a vogueing ghost. Featuring former Drag Race contestant April Carrion (the reveal of what would have been her “Snatch Game” persona is a hoot) as she jets off to compete, it’s hard not to think of the Houses of Paris is Burning and the massive steps made in pop culture acceptance of not only gay and drag culture, but LGBTIQ people in general. Mala Mala doesn’t reach the stunning, soaring heights of that earlier film, but the two would make an outdragous double feature.

Even when the film falls into standard doc practices like talking heads, Mala Mala stands out from the documentary crowd. Exceptionally lensed with a vibrant use of color and framing as well as frequently hypnotic imagery, this is one of the most gorgeous docs in some time. The sound work, too, is wonderfully done, full of pulsating music that recreates the evocative sounds and beats of Puerto Rican drag life. This is most certainly not another drably assembled work of non-fiction (like, say, other Tribeca doc titles such as The Newburgh Sting and Regarding Susan Sontag), but an exciting fusion that suggests its debut directors have the smarts to potentially go far. Christine Vachon would be wise to take Sickles and Santini up on their shimmering, almost sensual promise as exhibited in Mala Mala, a vital new film in the constantly evolving landscape of queer cinema.

April Carrion (RuPaul's Drag Race) at the Tribeca premiere


Wednesday
Apr162014

Drag Race: The Sounds of My Fury

Here, in picture form, is why I've been unable to function whenever I tried to write about RuPaul's Drag Race

somehow the blurry screenshot seemed appropriate so i didn't try again

Laganja Estranja's bottomless need for attention coupled with her lack of deserving any but mostly her limitless capacity for meaningless affectation completely broke me. As did the epic 3 hours of episode last week -- 3 hours in one single night. Turns out that's enough glitter, saturated color, and aural assault to even give Baz Luhrmann pause. But mostly it was Laganja. If I could describe in writing the clucking, mouth popping, meaningless "words" issuing from her frosted lips I would but judge Michelle Visage summed it up brilliantly in a weirdly accurate gibberish approximation of Laganja's unprocessed non-integrated robotic regurgitation of every drag vocal affectation that the show has ever produced. <-- Good lord that last sentence was a mouthful. I'm gagging on it.

Now that Laganja has sashayed away, the aural nightmare is over (the blazing fury I felt from the sounds a fictional "reality" tv character can make surprised me). And I am free to write about the show again. "Halleloo!" (er... speaking of meaningless vocal affectations!) So instead of trying to catch up we'll just proceed from the now for the sake of all of you who are watching. Cher's family members (mother Georgia Holt and son Chaz Bono) guest starred in order to be interviewed by the queens and Courtney Act basically summed of all of their reactions to the camera...

 Not that that excitement helped them focus because for the most part, they were terrible at being talk show hosts. Trinity K Bonet, who sashayed away, was the worst. She kept calling Chaz Bono "Chad" which might have been funny if it were shady but it was just basic incompetence.

Courtney, who didn't suck at TV gabbing at all, won the night with a stunning wing span (the runway theme was animals) and in addition to the feathers (Trinity) and fur (Bianca) and lion-like manes (Adore), Darienne killed it with Elephant tusks, and Ben de la Creme made a fab entrance in a fly costume... even if it tilted more Costume Shop than Cronenberg. "Help meeee"

Group Regret: Everyone at my viewing party wished they could have seen what Milk would have dressed as in this particular runway challenge. Rawr. She left too soon.

Belated Confession: I really like Joslyn Fox as a person in the workroom (if not as a competitor) so I feel bad for how roundly I was dissing her in the first couple of posts. She's not as dumb as she came off... or at least she's people smart.

You can watch the episode right here if you missed it

Are your favorites still your favorites? Or are your allegiances shifting as we rapidly approach the finale?

Thursday
Mar272014

Scream Queens, Rusicals, and Snatch Games

If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love someone else? Amen. I love myself therefore I forgive myself for being three weeks behind my promised RuCapping. I hate calling tv posts recaps, though that's the web's preferred terminology, because I'm not about to recount everything that happened. That's for the contestants themselves to do on reality television. That's the whole structure, right? Step 1: Talking head commentary on clip you're about to see from contestant involved. 2: What you actually see from the contest. Step 3: A recap of what you just saw via the same or different talking heads. Then the next day on the internet everyone who is not on the show recaps again. We're a very redundant pop culture, we are!

But I do feel bad for going AWOL because these three weeks of RuPaul's Drag Race were really movie friendly and you know how I love my TV at the Movies. After the jump brief notes on the queens forays into celebrity impersonation, horror movies, and off-key musicals.

6.3 SCREAM QUEENS

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Saturday
Mar082014

Drag Race: Big Opening Pt 2

Sorry this is so many days late! I promised we'd play along this year. And by play along I don't mind dress up in drag while typing but you can't see me so you'll never know but weekly posts on the best reality show on television (the Emmys sure are missing the boat float with their exceedingly conventional and stale nominations). Unfortunately "The Big Opening Part 2" which brough us another set of 7 queens, was much less cinematic in its shout-outs, so I made one up myself: Darienne Lake and June Squibb have the same designer. Pass it on!

 

Oh. my. god. Revelation as I typed: June Squibb would make the best Guest Judge on this show. Make that happen, Ru.

Not that no queens were compared to queens of the screen. Milk was told to "flash that Lauren Hutton smile" and Trinity K Bonet decided to go with 'something between Star Wars and Buckingham Palace for her look, citing Princess Leia as inspiration. The actual runway look skipped that generation and went straight for Princess Amidala. It worked for the judges.  

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